Sports in America: There Are No Even Playing Fields!

Harold BellContributor IIIJuly 26, 2009

Some of the Worlds’ greatest playground basketball players have come out of New York City. Hoop stars like Connie Hawkins, Nate “Tiny” Archibald, Pop Gates, Jack DeFares, John Isaacs, Carl Green, etc.

There was another playground basketball player visiting their city recently. President Barack Obama was there to address the NAACP on their 100th Anniversary.

He didn’t bring back memories of those great players. The left-handed jump shooter’s cross-over move to the podium in the ‘Big Apple’ made Earl Monroe’s move look mediocre.

President Obama made it clear from the very beginning of his 37-minute speech, that his recent historical move into the White House proves there have been some improvements in race relations in America. He also reminded us there is still plenty of work to be done.

He clearly understands in 2009 that when “White America” catches a cold, ‘Black America’ catches pneumonia. We are the most murdered; most incarcerated, and suffer more unemployment then any other group of people in America. We are the victims of all of these things in a country that we help build.

The day after his speech, a front page story in the Washington Post read, “Obama addresses the Race Issue in America for the first time.”  Where is a better time to address race relations then in front of an organization that has spent the last 100 years fighting racism or at Ben’s Chilli Bowl eating a hamburger?

It was in 1947 in New York City that the great Jackie Robinson kicked racism in the butt. He kicked in doors of America’s No. 1 past time, Major League Baseball.

Brooklyn Dodger owner Branch Rickey pleaded with Jackie to “Turn the other cheek” until white folks were comfortable seeing him on their ‘Field of Dreams.’

He had baseballs thrown at his head, players would slide into second base with spikes high, fans yelled “Nigger go home,” they spit on him, and released black cats on the field to dishonor him and Black America.

He kept his word and held his temper and made all of us proud. He died at the young age of 53 of a broken heart. He held in his anger too long.

The Jackie Robinson Foundation recently held an awards ceremony at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

They presented Washington Post sports writer Michael Wilbon and WJLA TV 7 anchorwoman Maureen Bunyan awards in his name. I wondered how and why?  Jackie Robinson was a man of integrity and kept his word!

"The many of us who attain what we have cannot forget those who help us along the way. We have got to remember there are so many others to pull along. The farther they go, the further we all go."
                                                                                   JACKIE ROBINSON

Jackie must be turning over in his grave to see the state of Major League Baseball in 2009. Black Americans on the field play have become an “Endangered Species.” Their numbers have dwindled to a precious few.

He would not recognize the billion-dollar stadiums, where there were once signs reading “Whites only” on water fountains.  A bottle of water would now cost him $5 and a cup of beer $8.

With his salary in the 1950s he could not afford to buy a beer and bag of peanuts in today’s ball parks. Today Major League Baseball players are the highest-paid professional athletes in American sports.

Fifty-two years after Jackie Robinson, there are still no Black owners in Major League Baseball.

Frank Robinson, the one player who had all the fire, skills and characteristics of Jackie has been banished to the front office of Major League Baseball. The reason: he refused to “Turn the other cheek.”  The same cheek Jackie Robinson turned 52 years ago.  

The Washington Nationals are now the laughingstock and worst team in Major League Baseball since his departure.

I applaud Frank for not allowing the Washington Nationals team owners to throw him a bone after firing him. They wanted to give him a day in his honor at the stadium.

He politely told them to stick their day where the sun didn't shine. There are no "Even Playing Fields" in Major League Baseball.

Black men were the first professional athletes in America. They carried the colors on the plantations during slavery. The slave owners became fat, rich and bored. Some decided they needed some leisure time and felt there was a need to be entertained.

The slave owners organized competition between the plantations. There were boxing matches (fights to the death), track and field events, horse racing, etc.

Money and sometimes plantations and slaves were a part of the wager process. Some outstanding performances won some slaves their freedom and cost others their lives.

The Kentucky Derby is the showcase of the racing World, a former slave Isaac Murphy won the first three. He is now in the Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

Black jockeys once dominated the sport. Much like baseball, an American black jockey is a rare sight in the saddle in the world of racing today. There are no “Even Playing Fields.”

Thanks to the late Red Auerbach and Boston Celtic owner Walter Brown, the NBA is the most integrated team sports’ franchise in America.  Despite that fact, the “Plantation Mentality” still exists among the owners and Commissioner David Stern.

This is the pro sports league that came up with the slogan “The NBA Cares.” They can’t prove it by me.

Last month I had a group of children located here in Prince Georges County who earned the right to travel to Florida to play in the Regional Basketball Finals. The lack of finances put their travel plans on hold.

I encountered their coach, Felix Wood, in a Safeway Food Store parking lot in Bowie, Md. Felix was once a Kid In Trouble and was a benefactor of my community youth programs. We had not seen each other in at least 30 years.

He told me he was now working with youth as I once did with young men like him. He made feel proud when he said "Mr. Bell, I am only following your lead.”

I called on several organizations (NBA) and associates (benefactors of Kids In Trouble, Inc. and Inside Sports) hoping they would help finance the trip for the youth.

I was not surprised by the response that came from the NBA, what really surprised me was the feeble excuse they gave for not helping.

The e-mail response came from the office of Brian McIntyre. He is the Vice-President of Media Relations for the NBA.  Brian is not a bad guy in his role as the PR man but it has made him a part of the problem.  He is just a product of his time.

There are times when white folks don’t know that they are being racist. It is often an honest mistake, the simple fact and reason, they have never been black. So how can they know?

For example; the NBA pick and choose who "The Good Guys and Bad Guys" in our community based on information they receive from their ‘In House Negroes.’

Brian does not know me and David Stern does not know me. He based his decision on not helping those kids on “He says, she says.” That is the system and I understand it, but I don’t agree with it.

The NBA for example; is a multi-billion dollar corporation, Brian's e-mail response said, "Harold I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the recession has hit us, too. I am sorry we can't be of some help. I will contact the Wizards and see if they can help out." 

I didn’t hold my breath waiting for a response. The kids would have had a better opportunity for success if he had contacted David Duke.

Brian did even try to fake it by writing his own check for $2 to help a child. He has the mind set of most; he thinks he is helping Harold Bell.

The NFL is also misguided. American dog lovers want to continue to punish QB Michael Vick for bad judgment. His conviction on cruelty to animals (dogs) was little over the top.

Black men in America are being murdered by rogue policemen every day and they never see the inside of a jail.  Guess who brought dog fighting to America and the sport has not missed a beat? White men in America!

Back to the NFL, the Colts WR Marvin Harrison was once a suspect in using a firearm in an assault in his hometown of Philadelphia. You would have thought he was “The Son of Sam” the way the media and the NFL came down on him.

The gun case of Giant WR Plaxico Burress was also overkill and now they are trying to Blackball him out of the league.

Ben Roethlisberger, a two time Super Bowl-winning QB, was recently accused of rape by a 31-year-old VIP casino host at Lake Tahoe, Nev., in July 2008. The big story here is that ESPN the leader in sports in America tried to suppress the story. I wonder why?  I hope it had nothing to do with his blue eyes and blond hair.

Movie producer and actor Tyler Perry was right on the money with his anger in a letter directed at a swim club outside of Philadelphia. The incident in Philly involving inner-city black youth at the all-white Valley Swimming Club plays out in cities all over America each and every day (they have since changed their position).

We all need to put ourselves in a position to do what Tyler Perry did recently for those children from "The City of Brotherly Love." Show some REAL love!

He stepped up to the plate when he heard the racist news reports and actions taken by the all-white Valley Swim Club barring black children from the swimming pool. The decision was made after the swim club signed a contract to accommodate the group.

Tyler grabbed the bull by the horns and contacted the inner-city organization and gave all involved an all-expenses-paid trip to Disney World.

Unlike some black men in America, Tyler understands that when you help others, you help yourself, and he understands there is no such thing as an “Even Playing Field.”

Swimming is much like golf and tennis, a country club sport. The country club scene in America has always catered to a predominantly white clientele. These clubs are used to develop the Michael Phelps of the swimming world.

The fathers of Venus and Serena Williams (Tennis) and Tiger Woods (golf) are a clear indication of the type of athletes that are waiting in the wings in the black community.

The Williams sisters and Tiger dominate their sports and never belonged to a country club. All they needed was an opportunity. Their fathers saw that they got it.

The Valley Swim Club was just making sure that the children from Philadelphia were not given an opportunity on their watch. There are no “Even Playing Fields.”

President Obama was right on the money as it related to the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates in Cambridge, Mass. This was "Racial Profiling" at its worst.

There are some folks up in arms because the President used the word "Stupid" in describing the racist reactions of Sgt. James Crowley, the cop. The act was stupid and beyond.

Please don't get President Obama mixed up with Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Michael Wilbon, Sugar Ray Leonard, James Brown, etc. You will never hear President Obama deny his blackness. 

The others are the ones who share complimentary tickets with other black folks to Wizards and Mystic basketball games and Nationals and Orioles baseball games.

This is their claim to community service. There are intelligent black folks who are accepting their misguided and safe acts as community involvement.

They have a built-in excuse when you ask them why they don’t get involved in the community, “I don’t think there is a need to let everyone know what I am doing.”  

Translation; ‘I don’t want white folks to know I am helping to pull my brothers and sisters up by their bootstraps.’

I recently saw Sugar Ray Leonard on the Fox television show “Are You Smarter then a Fifth Grader?” I knew immediately he was in over his head and he didn’t disappoint me. I was there up close and personal during his boxing career and watched his financial transactions with his agent Mike Trainor.

Trainor took him to the bank (his own) and walked away just before the Hector Camacho fight. I knew Sugar Ray was definitely not smarter then a fifth-grader. The good news is, Sugar Ray made so much money Trainor could not take it all.

James Brown (CBS) says, “I am no longer friends with Clifford Alexander (former Secretary of the Army) because he tried to tell me how to spend my money.”  Cliff remembered when he didn't have any money. 

Clifford Alexander was the one who got him into Harvard and help get him into the business. How soon we forget!

Mr. Gates had every right to be agitated and upset after he identified who he was (the home owner).  The Public Servant, Sgt. Crowley, should have removed himself from the property owed by Mr. Gates. It made no difference whether Mr. Gates talked about his mommy and grandma and screamed from the top of his voice.

I think I need to mail Sgt. Crowley a recording of Oscar Brown’s music classic “Signifying Monkey.”  He would then better understand Mr. Gates and exactly what he meant.

All The Public Servant had to do was walk away, but his gun and badge gave him a false sense of security and power. Plus, his “Gang” was only a cell phone call away. 

This type of Plantation Mentally is still prevalent in black communities all over America. Sgt. Crowley’s act of racism undermines all the great works and sacrifices made by both black and white Americans in the Civil Rights Movement.

The show of force by the Cambridge Chief of Police and the Police Union should have never influenced the President’s decision to apologize to one of the worst organized “Gangs” in the United States of America.

The history of police departments around the country proves they have been nothing but ‘Bully Pits for racist and power hungry cops.’

They have waged war on the black community throughout our history.  I live in one of the worst police jurisdictions in the history of law enforcement (Prince Georges County).

President Obama’s about-face and diplomatic invitation to Mr. Gates and Sgt. Crowley to meet at the White House for a beer is really rewarding the officer’s racist act. Why reward this "Good Old Boy" with a White House photo op?

They claimed that Sgt. Crowley was one of the cities’ most decorated officers and had taught a class on “Police Profiling” for the past five years. This proves that President Obama’s assessment was right on the ONE, he never learned anything from his own class.

I am familiar with his kind I have worked with and around his type for over 40 years in the inner-city. I had two brothers in law-enforcement (DC MPD and U.S. Marshall Service). I have been there and done that!

I made sure my brothers understood, they were Public Servants and not Overseers!

In Chicago, President Barack Obama's hometown, 40+ young people have been gunned down in the streets this summer: all black. We need to be apologizing to those parents and inviting them to the White House.

A white child and a black child born on the same day in the same hospital, the white child will outlive the black child by eight years. A black child is five times as likely to see the inside of a jail then a white child his age.

I said earlier, we are the most unemployed, murdered, and incarcerated people in America.  Professor Henry Louis Gates and President Barack Obama are angry and I understand exactly why.

I recently reminded an Attorney associate, the reason for my anger and why he needs to take a look in the mirror. I told him in so many words "Brother, if you are not angry about the state of Black America, you need to see a psychiatrist."  He is another one of those fake brothers who think he has it made in America and all is well.

With the cop in Cambridge and brothers like the ones mentioned above, there will never be an even playing field in “The Game Called Life” in our lifetime. Black life will always be an uphill battle.

We are often asked by misguided white folks “When are you going to get over slavery?” Thanks to Sgt. Crowley and his kind, we are finding it very difficult.

Barack Obama’s historical move to the White House proves “That every black face you see is not your brother and every white face you see is not your enemy,” but there is still plenty of work to do in race relations in America.